CSM: Reviving Shinto: Prime Minister Abe tends special place in Japan’s soul for mythology


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Hi Blog. For those who think I was exaggerating about the mystical ideology behind the Abe Administration’s aims in my most recent Japan Times JBC column, please consider the following article. Courtesy of MS and GS. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


Reviving Shinto: Prime Minister Abe tends special place in Japan’s soul
Conservatives seek to expand the role of Japan’s indigenous faith in public life. But critics warn that could feed a simmering nationalism.
By Michael Holtz, Christian Science Monitor, October 5, 2015

TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s deep adoration for the Ise Grand Shrine, the most sacred Shinto site in Japan, is no secret. He visits every New Year and reportedly even postponed a cabinet meeting in 2013 to attend a ceremony on its hallowed ground.

So when Mr. Abe announced this summer that the 2016 summit of the Group of Seven industrialized nations would be held in the nearby resort city of Shima, Satoru Otowa wasn’t surprised.

“I believe it has something to do with his Shinto beliefs,” Mr. Otowa, a spokesman for the shrine, said while leading a tour there in August. “When the prime minister visited in January, everyone saw how passionately he prayed.”

The decision to host the G-7 summit near Ise underscores Abe’s devout Shinto faith. Yet his commitment to Japan’s indigenous religion has led to far more than symbolic gestures. He and his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) have pursued a wide range of Shinto-inspired policies – from more openly embracing Japan’s imperial heritage to reforming aspects of Japanese education and even re-evaluating the country’s wartime record – with the explicit goal of renewing what they say are traditional values.

As old perhaps as Japan itself, Shinto has no explicit creed or major religious texts. Its adherents pray to “kami,” spirits found in objects both living and inanimate, and believe in a complex body of folklore that emphasizes ancestor worship. But as Japan modernized in the late 19th century, officials made Shinto the state religion, and Japanese were taught to view​ the emperor as having divine stature. The religion became closely associated with Japanese militarism, leading to its separation from state institutions after World War II.

Shinto struggled for decades to find a place in postwar Japan, and given the religion’s history, some critics see the country’s newfound interest in it as a sign of simmering nationalism at best. At worst, they describe it as a reprise of the official State Shinto of imperial Japan.

But among conservatives it reflects a palpable fear that Japan has somehow gone adrift after two decades of economic stagnation, rampant materialism, and the rise of neighboring China. Many believe the time has come for the religion to regain its rightful place in the public sphere.

“Shinto is refusing to be restricted to the private and family life,” says Mark Mullins, a professor of Japanese studies at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. “There is this sense that Japan needs to get back what it lost after World War II and that this will be good for the nation.”

Flying the flag
One of Keiji Furuya’s most formative experiences was the three years he spent as an exchange student in New York as a young teenager. Mr. Furuya, who has since become one of Japan’s most conservative LDP lawmakers, recalls marveling at America’s unabashed displays of patriotism. He was astonished to see flags billowing from front porches and students reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in school.

Growing up in Japan, Furuya’s never saw such displays. The official Shinto ideology used to promote Japanese superiority and a presumed right to govern Asia was tucked away after Japan’s defeat in 1945. Emperor Hirohito renounced his divine status as a “living god” in early 1946 and the country’s new Constitution, drafted by US occupation forces, enshrined pacifism as national policy.

The Constitution also mandated the separation of state and religion. The US occupation not only ended Shinto’s official designation, it inaugurated a period when Shinto began to disappear from Japanese society altogether. Shinto, along with the nationalism it helped spawn, quickly became taboo.

“For people like me who went through the postwar education system in Japan, raising a flag was not a popular thing to do,” Furuya said in August during an interview in his office conference room. As if to make up for the loss, the room had been adorned with three flags. “But as time went by,” he added, “I came to believe that it was natural to have respect and pride in one’s own country.”

It’s a belief that has come to define much of Furuya’s political career. He was first elected to Japan’s lower house of parliament in 1990 and re-elected to an eighth term in 2012. He also serves in Abe’s cabinet. As a defender of what he calls “true conservatism,” he considers it his duty to protect Japanese traditional values. To do so, he says, “We need drastic reforms.”

Interest in such reform has been building for much of the past decade. Masahiko Fujiwara’s “Dignity of a Nation” sold 2 million copies in 2006 and revived the concept of “bushido,” the honor code of the samurai. The former ultranationalist governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, spoke of the Japan “that could say no” to the US. And the introduction of patriotic education in public schools was one of Abe’s top initiatives during his first stint as prime minister from 2006 to 2007.

More recently, a new wave of conservatives – often compared to members of the tea party in the US – helped the LDP win a landslide victory in 2012 and put Abe back in power. Their support helped him pass a package of laws last month that allows Japan to send troops abroad in support of allies for the first time in its postwar era.

Shinto Association
Furuya’s support for a wide range of initiatives that aim to revive pieces of prewar Japanese culture led him to join Shinto Seiji Renmei (the Shinto Association of Spiritual Leadership). Since its founding in 1969, Seiji Renmei has transformed into one of the most influential political lobbying groups in Japan. According to the most recent count, 302 parliament members are affiliated with the association, compared with 44 two decades ago. Abe and many of his top cabinet officials – including the deputy prime minister, defense minister, and justice minister – are longtime members.

Seiji Renmei’s mission is to reclaim the spiritual values that it says were lost under the US occupation. The association supports efforts to revise Japan’s pacifist Constitution, encourage patriotic and moral education, and promote the return of the emperor to a more prominent place in Japanese society. It also calls for restoring the special status of Yasukuni Shrine, a controversial memorial to Japan’s war dead, including convicted war criminals from World War II.

“After the war, there was an atmosphere that considered all aspects of the prewar era bad,” former Seiji Renmei director Yutaka Yuzawa told Reuters last December. “Policies were adopted weakening the relationship between the imperial household and the people,” he added, “and the most fundamental elements of Japanese history were not taught in the schools.”

Seiji Renmei declined multiple requests for an interview from The Christian Science Monitor.

Iwahashi Katsuji, a spokesman for the Association of Shinto Shrines, a closely linked organization that administers 80,000 shrines in Japan, says it’s time for the Japanese to re-evaluate their past.

“Even after the Meiji Restoration there are many good points,” he says, referring to Japan’s rapid transformation from a feudal farming society into an industrial power at the end of the 19th century. “Just saying that Japan lost the war and that Japan was bad and evil is not constructive.”

A growing influence?
Inoue Nobutaka, a professor of Shinto studies at Kokugakuin University in Tokyo, says it’s far from clear how much of the past Abe and his supporters want to revive. But he contends that organizations such as Seiji Renmei and Nippon Kaigi, a like-minded nationalist group, hold more sway over the Abe administration than they did over its predecessors.

“These groups have been politically active for a long time,” Dr. Nobutaka says. “Their influence has grown because Abe has turned to them for support.”

That support is starting to pay off. With the help of Furuya, who heads a group of conservative lawmakers that promotes the cultivation of patriotic values in schools, Seiji Renmei and its allies have gained some of the most ground in education.

The group argues that changes in the education system are essential to restoring Japanese pride, which they say has eroded over decades of teachers imparting “a masochistic view of history” on their students. Its members dispute the death toll of the 1937 massacre in Nanking that the Chinese government says stands at 300,000, and deny that the Japanese Army played a direct role in forcing so-called comfort women to provide sex to its soldiers in China and Korea.

The group launched a campaign this summer to encourage local education boards to adopt revised textbooks that eliminate negative depictions of Japan’s wartime activities. The strategy is gaining attention. Last month, 31 school districts in 14 prefectures had agreed to use the more conservative textbooks in their junior high schools, up from 23 districts in 11 prefectures four years ago.

Those achievements came after Abe pledged in January to fight what he called mistaken views about Japan’s wartime actions. Yet history is an unresolved subject in East Asia. In the eyes of China and South Korea, two victims of Japan’s early 20th-century aggression, Abe and his supporters are historical revisionists who want to whitewash the country’s wartime atrocities.

Abe’s critics warn the new textbooks could weaken an antiwar message they say has helped keep Japan peaceful for seven decades. But supporters like Furuya argue that they are needed to instill a new sense of patriotism among young people.

“That doesn’t mean we’re fostering nationalism,” Furuya says. “I believe it is natural to understand our country’s history correctly and to have respect for our country.”

The Ise mystique
The Ise Grand Shrine is a sprawling, tree-covered complex located in Mie prefecture, about 200 miles southwest of Tokyo near the Pacific coast. The sun goddess Amaterasu, a major Shinto deity who is believed to be an ancestral god of the imperial family, is enshrined in its inner sanctum. Her story is a powerful legend that draws millions of Japanese every year to pray at the shrine. It’s one that Abe is eager to share with the world.

“I wanted to choose a place where world leaders could have a full taste and feel of Japan’s beautiful nature, bountiful culture, and traditions,” he told reporters after announcing the location of the G-7 summit.

Never mind that the governor of Mie prefecture hadn’t even submitted a bid to host the summit when the deadline came and went last August. At the time, Hiroshima and Sendai, a major city in the area ravaged by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, were widely considered the frontrunners.

But it soon became clear that the prime minister had other plans. That December his staff contacted the Mie governor to encourage him to enter the race, according to reports in Japanese media. On Jan. 21, just weeks after Abe visited Ise to celebrate the New Year, Shima’s candidacy was announced. He declared it the winner on June 5.

The summit will in fact be held on an island off the coast of Shima. Yet that hasn’t stopped Abe from calling the host city Ise-Shima in an apparent effort to draw more attention to his beloved shrine.

“Every country has its myths,” says Dr. Nobutaka of Kokugakuin University. “Myth has a special place in the heart of the Japanese, regardless of what happened in the past.”

21 comments on “CSM: Reviving Shinto: Prime Minister Abe tends special place in Japan’s soul for mythology

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    Yeah, fine, help yourselves…

    japan’s ruling elites, put back in place by GHQ, have spent the last 70 years resisting change, even though that change has made Japan, and the Japanese people, richer, more prosperous, and more advanced than it ever was before. The ruling elites refusal to embrace these social changes has led to a refusal to embrace *any* change, to the point where the post-war structures and initiatives bequeathed to them by the US are starting to fail as the ruling elites consistent refusal to embrace them means that these structures and initiatives are neglected and don’t receive the updates that are required as global and domestic circumstances have changed.

    Now that these neglected structures are failing in Japan, the elites naturally don’t blame themselves for having not embraced the structures from the start, but rather lie that the structures are the problem and should be consigned to the bin. To be replaced by…….?

    Shinto and other ‘traditional Japanese values’ of the Imperialist ideology. Because that worked out so well before, right?

    Typical Japanese conservative (in every sense of the word) mentality; if at first you don’t succeed, double-down and suffer even more!

    The question is, after 70 years of peace and pretending to understand western liberal freedoms, can the Japanese right-wing overcome public opinion?
    On the one side is the Secrecy Law, and oppressive vertical hierarchies of abuse and bullying that demand subservience at the threat of being accused of not being ‘proper Japanese’, the government hyped threat of China. On the other side is a Japanese public that only wants the ‘dreamy day’ fantasy.

    Preserving the ‘dreamy day’ fantasy trumps caring about TEPCO, the nuclear disaster, and failed reconstruction because ‘out of sight, is out of mind’. Likewise, the secrecy law and nuke plant re-starts are out of sight and can be ignored. But can the ‘dreamy day’ fantasy stand up to conscription? Can the ‘dreamy day’ fantasy stand up to kami and yasakuni, and the Emperor is a god?

    People say that Japan will never re-militarize because it’s become so liberal, democratic, western, and ‘soft’ over the last 70 years. But go back and study the Taisho and Showa era struggles for male emancipation, women’s votes protests, the politically active left, the consumerism, and the decadent lifestyles of Tokyo in the 1920’s, and you realize that Japan fell a lot further already, than it would have to fall now.

  • The funny thing about Shinto-ism is… it’s actually a foreign import: from Judea to be precise.

    One day, a Judean King and Queen lost a battle with Assyrians and were permanently exiled.
    This Royal family, together with thousands of their supporters, moved east along the silk road.
    They eventually reached the sea, which they surprisingly were able to cross with boats, to Japan.

    When they arrived in Japan, the simple Japanese farmers incorrectly assumed the Royals were Gods.
    The Queen shrewdly rolled with it, and claimed, “Yes, I am Aveterasu” (one of the many Elohim gods.)
    Her original “Aveterasu” claim became slightly morphed into Amaterasu, but her claim was/is believed.
    This “Goddess” mated with a Japanese person, & 5 generations later, was born a “3.375% Divine” Jinmu.

    In addition to that “Divine” (Judean) DNA, Jinmu also inherited 3 physical presents from his GGGGrandma.
    The Sacred Mirror, Sacred Sword, and Sacred Jewel: the DNA plus THE 3 ITEMS, are Emperor requirements.
    For example, the 7 Emperors who ruled from 1331 to 1392, are deleted from the number of 125 Emperors.
    Even though the Northern Court had the DNA, and the won the battles, they didn’t grab THE 3 ITEMS: oops.
    Even Hirohito said, while Japan was getting bombed, “Save the 3 treasures – THEY are the most important!”

    And now friends, here is where the “theory” about the SOURCE of these 3 sacred treasures becomes FACT:
    Japan’s first Minister of Education went to Ise Shrine, to see what exactly was written on the Sacred Mirror.
    On the back of the Sacred Mirror, Mori Arinori discovered writing which turns out to be old Judean Hebrew.
    Here’s what is written on the back of Japan’s most holy physical sacred treasure received from the Goddess:
    http://i.imgur.com/fq4IzXc.png old Judean Hebrew which states “Eheyeh Asher Eheyeh” = “I AM THAT I AM.”
    Actually folks who study it more deeply say it has a double meaning, “Return to the Light, Light of Yahweh.”

    Japan’s response to this shocking proof that Amaterasu was merely a Judean human, not a Divine Goddess,
    was to allow “a lone crazy guy” to kill Japan’s first Minister of Education, Mori Arinori, for the crime of truth.
    The tatemae for the murder is “Mori didn’t take off his shoes, and moved the curtain with his walking stick.”

    Since Mori Arinori revealed what language was written on the back of Japan’s most sacred physical treasure,
    honest intelligent people have researched the (95%+) similarities between “old Judean-ism” and “Shinto-ism.”

    For example, the fact that the King/Emperor is also the head priest, who must wear all KannehBosm clothes,
    on the day when he is crowned (and must on that 1st day plant a KannehBosm seed) they love KannehBosm,
    they love KannehBosm so much that babies are brought to the shrines to have it waved around their heads,
    (but since the Americans came and made that illegal Japan can only give babies Asanoha design bandannas)
    Moses would be appalled to learn that the plant God told him was so important, Kannehbosm, is now illegal.

    Anyway, in addition to loving sacred KannehBosm, Shinto-ism loves the old Judean “carrying of the ark” ritual,
    as well as the old Judean “have the priests wear KannehBosm 麻 robes with long fringes in the corners” ritual,
    as well as the old Judean “have the priests wear boxes tied to their foreheads, while blowing on horns” ritual,
    as well as the old Judean “build a special shrine, which only priests may enter, behind the main shrine” ritual,
    as well as the old Judean “let’s mark the gate of Herod and all Royal stuff, with a Royal 16-petal flower” ritual,
    as well as the old Judean “keep ‘da women who are currently menstruating (‘unclean’) in separate huts” ritual,
    as well as the old Judean “don’t cut the hair of the sideburn area, let it grow long curls (‘peyot-mizura’)” ritual,
    as well as the old Judean “let’s chisel the Star of David symbol into all of the stone lamps leading to Ise” ritual,
    as well as many other examples, enough to have convinced me “Yes, Shinto-ism came directly from Judea-ism.”


    Even if a few of the similarities within those 4 pages can be proven to be false, the overall pattern seems true to me.
    And yes, I’m quite sure that the author Arimasa Kubo happens to right about this “Shinto-ism came from Judea-ism”
    even though the he is absolutely WRONG about literally all of the other opinions he writes about on his home page.
    http://www2.biglobe.ne.jp/~remnant/engindex.htm It’s a reminder to find wise messages yet discard the messenger.

    My main point here is, it sure is ironic: the Jingoist Xenophobes got Shinto-ism from… (gasp) Non-Japanese Foreigners!

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    Before anyone laughs at Anonymous #3, the fact that all humans, even the Japanese, share the same mitochondrial DNA from (ultimately) the same female individual, any belief in the divine descent of any ‘race’, or the belief of the development of any ‘race’ in ethnically pure isolation, should be laughed at out loud.

    I remember a documentary about 20 years ago that tested for mitochondrial DNA from a variety of people from ethnic backgrounds. When this poor Japanese guy was told by a bunch of official looking scientists in lab coats, that he shared the same as a black guy, he looked like a UFO had just landed on his veranda- his whole world-view was totally destroyed.

  • Yeah, I know this idea of Shinto-ism (just like Kanji) being a foreign import, is surprising, because this is rarely disseminated info: Japan’s first Emperor = Japan’s first SHINTO Head-Priest, having inherited 3.375% of Judean DNA (while also inheriting the 3 physical Royal Emperor Treasures of Japan, one of which being marked, according to the Japan’s first minister of education, with with old Hebrew writing)

    So it’s perfectly understandable for folks to reactionary reply “What? Exiled King Hoshea and his wife arriving in Japan around 720 BC and (gasp) thus Judean DNA managed to help spark the original Japanese Royal Ancestry Line? Absurd! Jews never came to Japan!”

    Yet, this theory above is not so different from the theories most people now accept, which is that Japan’s Royal Ancestry Line was sparked by Korean Royals.

    But leaving aside the Royal DNA part completely: anyone who honestly compares the Shinto PRACTICES with the old Judean PRACTICES will have trouble denying the many, many, many “coincidental” similarities.

    OK, I’ve said my piece, about Shinto-ism being, surprisingly, a foreign import. Thanks for the comment Jim.

    Back to the less controversial discussion of how Shinto-ism was used during the war to promote Japan’s war initiation and how Shinto-ism is now being used again by Abe and his ilk to promote Japan’s NEXT war initiation.

  • Japan’s ruling elites that uses state Shintoism, looking more and more like North Korea’s Kim family worshipping for nationalism purpose.

  • When I read “indigenous religion” in the headline, I honestly assumed this was about Ainu or Ryukyu practices. Like so much associated with the Japanese imperial system, Shinto owes its formal, government-sanctioned existence to China’s Tang dynasty.

    Until the so-called Ritsuryo body of laws were imported in the early 700s, Shinto had been a diffuse and purely animistic religion which had been no specific gods or fixed places of worship. These were later introduced as a way for the newly created Japanese state to exert influence its subjects’ daily life. It was also was also at this time that the Tang Emperor’s title of 天皇 (Tenno) began to be used as the head of the new religion.

    More recently, state Shinto is or was heavily influenced by European ideologies of ethnic nationalism.

    I’m not aware of any good resources on Shinto in English, but for people who can read Japanese I recommend 「神道」の虚像と実像 by 井上寛司. (From the introduction of the book, the author criticizes the tendency of Japanese scholars to throw out scientific thought and mythologize when dealing with domestic institutions.)

  • Jim di Griz says:

    @ XY #8

    Yes, there are almost no English language academic texts on Japanese Shinto. Mainly because the the Japanese are so unclear themselves about what it is and what it means. Sure, it’s an animalistic deity worship system imported from ‘Three Kingdoms’ era Korea, which was then ignored for hundreds of years in favor of Buddhism in Japan, and then totally ‘re-imagined’ during Meiji-era ‘anti-bakufu’ house keeping and state-building into something that not only had only the most cursory connection to its real ‘traditional’ roots, but also (and most importantly) into an extra-legal system of control.

    What modern Japanese understand as ‘Shinto’ is nothing more than an imperialist tool of oppression and subjugation. Because the Japanese can’t it don’t see this for themselves, they have surrounded modern Shinto with a lot of denial driven mumbo-jumbo that they can’t explain. But the fact that they can’t explain it to you (whereas ‘we Japanese’ just *feel it*) serves to reinforce one of the nationalistic control/oppression functions of Shinto; Japanese are more ‘special’ than all foreigners.

    And, handily enough, this dynamic also serves as a barrier to preventing NJ from studying Shinto academically, and showing ‘the man behind the curtain’; our analysis is inherently flawed because we are not Japanese!

  • This is very revealing. For me the most telling detail is the similarities between the ark of the covenant and the mobile shrines that are carried at festivals.

  • OnceAGaijinAlwaysAGaijin says:

    This is a Japanese example of the state vs. religion battles that are being fought, one way or another across multiple societies right now.

    First the post-war gains towards democracy and increasing peoples’ workplace rights, access to free and affordable healthcare, unemployment insurance (now rebranded and lablled “welfare”), etc. were damaged.

    Now secular societies across the world are facing new threats from religions, primarily the lunacy of regions, primarily Christianity and Islam. It’s a large and loose framework, but the mysticism and idiocy of “Shintoism” can be quite easily fit into this.

    It all comes down to power; some people want, or are educated to think, or because they already have a deep sense of entitlement (like Abe) that they should have power over others. Divide and rule. Create myths and mysticism and hierarchies. Substitute logical and rational thinking with belief and hierarchy.

    Sure, if they want to go back to the paternalism of the pre-war period, Japan may shut itself of from the neoliberal rape of our rights. However, Abe and his backers seem more or less happy to accept a good deal of the neoliberal package as they and their scion, already on the right side of the divide, will benefit the most from it. As life becomes less secure and more complex, more and more people will no doubt turn to religion as a source of comfort.

    Of course the Japanese people who want to believe the idiocy of Shintoism will want to believe that this is their unique culture, etc. etc. the same way fundamentalist Christians or Muslims also believe in their their peculiar rights and entitlements.

    Apologists for Shintoism might argue that it’s somehow benign compared to Christianity or Islam etc. Obviously it isn’t. Mixed with Meiji state-Shintoism, it’s a highly potent toxin to not only to logical and rational thinking and the fundamentals of a democratic society based on laws and rights that arise out of them, but also toxic to those very rights themselves.

    Nippon Kaigi would have Japan rewound 100 years…have the Emperor restored to his rightful position. But then…if they did that, then they would have a massively out of control Emperor fucking concubines all over the shop followed by a drooling idiot-savant…something wrong with this picture.

    Idiocy. Lunacy.

  • Embedded racism great title, I cant wait to get this new book. I will have to get this with my university book budget and make it required reading to help enlighten all my brainwashed first year students.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    @Jim, #11

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Actually, the title is not unique to Debito’s upcoming book; you can see the list of literature through google searching. I found the publisher Lexington Books, which is a division of Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Inc., offers plenty of books focusing on race/racism across discipline. I think this is the first time they will publish the book focusing on Japan. The only issue is that it’s pricy(it’s a British publishing company); they generally charge us a lot for any upcoming books in the hardcover. I’m not sure when paperback or electronic (kindle or nook) version becomes available, though. I’ll wait and see how the price range goes.

    — I think it’ll be out in paperback in about a year. Kindle or Nook should be around the same time as hardcover. I don’t know pricing.

  • @ TJJ #13

    Ha! Yes!
    I make so many mistakes tapping stuff out on my phone with my fat fingers, and the phone often ‘corrects’ them to the wrong word.

  • Jim di Griz says:

    And so it continues.
    Abe is the first sitting PM to visit a US aircraft carrier (in this case, the nuclear powered USS Ronald Reagan, which the pentagon will neither confirm not deny is bringing nuclear weapons into Japan- although we know the the LDP has agreed that they can for decades).


    Anyway, look at the picture. Despite the fact that Abe has never ‘served’ in the SDF, he is wearing an SDF issue flight jacket for the visit. His whole party is. And they’ve got cute little SDF name patches on their flight jackets! Even Aso (far right of pic) has one. Where I come from, this kind of Walter Mitty cosplay is called ‘stolen valor’ and is a criminal offense. But I guess Abe needs his Comander in Chief ‘Mission Accomplished’ moment for NHK to reinforce to the masses that ‘Japan is on a war footing’.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    Now, I remember that Dr. Debito was harassed by the police during a previous international summit held in Japan, and we all know how much the J-police like to ‘deputize’ the entire population to snitch on NJ, well, pretty much anytime, so I wasn’t surprised to see that the security budget for this years G7 summit at Ise is massive;


    After all, Abe’s put Japan on IS’s map now, so there’s a good excuse for all the police overtime.

    But then I noticed that rather than worrying about, y’know, actual terrorists and stuff, the Chief of Police is more worried about ‘suspicious’ NJ;


    And as we have discussed here at debito.org before, if an old man on the street thinks that an NJ is ‘suspicious’ he calls the police, and the police come along and restrain that NJ to death, or deny him medical attention (doctor is out to lunch, remember that?) until the NJ dies of his injuries sustained under arrest. Since the police only get a finger-wagging ticking off from the courts for this, I don’t expect them to behave differently in future.

  • @Jim #17 –

    Suspicious ACTIONS already witnessed (specifically meaning: definite describable actions done which give a police officer probable cause to believe the person is involved in a CRIME) is required before any police-questioning (shokumu-shitsumon) to be legally initiated. Which means legally there never is such a thing as a suspicious person. Society seems to be forgetting about that. If an observer wants to label someone a “suspicious person” there must first be some suspicious ACTIONS.

    A happy new year 2016 fresh reminder, if suddenly accused of a crime by the sudden stopping of your movement by an official scofflaw with a police badge is to focus like a broken record on the most important point:

    “BEFORE initiating this stopping of me, WHAT specific action DID you observe which GAVE you reasonable Probable Cause to believe I am connected with what crime? Without any initial probable cause of a CRIME, this stop itself was illegal from the moment of initiation, and thus the entire case against me will have to be thrown out by the courts, what a waste of our tax funds and an embarrassment to the police force your actions are creating, plus the officer who initiated police-questioning (you) without probable cause of a crime (that’s illegal police action) will be investigated by the Kouan Iinkai. Show your Techou now please.”

    Yes, I know, maybe the illegal-police-questioning (違法職務質問) officer WILL get penalized by the Kouan Iinkai, maybe he WON’T, but at least suddenly by focusing on the illegality of initiating questioning without probable cause of a CRIME is itself a police-law-violation, as the sentence above does, repeated calmly yet openly for all to hear, hopefully the officer, like any creature who prefers easy pickings, will become more likely to decide “Uh oh, this particular individual knows their rights, and is courageous enough to stand up in court in front of judges and point out my police-law-violations. So I’m going to choose to stop violating the rights of this person, back out of this situation as quickly as possible, and go find an easier target who doesn’t know their rights as much.”

  • Jim di Griz says:

    @ Anonymous #18

    Absolutely right!
    We should none of us EVER, for the sake of a ‘quiet life’, allow police officers (or others!) to break the law in any way! Doing so only facilitates the mentality amongst Japanese police and society that NJ have no rights, and are not protected by the law.
    Facilitating these abuses of police power for the sake of an easy life engenders nothing but further abuses of power that are more difficult to resist.
    Put the J-police on notice; we know their legal constraints, and will defy human rights abuses.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    @JDG & Anonymous

    I hear you. No doubt that such an international event like G-7 summit empowers the state to impose a rigorous, random ID checking for security concern. My hunch is that there seems to be some correlation between the international events that draw public concern over safety hazard and high possibility of random police ID checking. It was panic attack over the outbreak of SARs and avian flu that eventually drove the state authority to legalize ID laws(e.g., Alien Resident Card/New Resident Card) in April 2005. Today, I haven’t heard as many reports of complaint on the issue as they used to be–especially in the first five years (2005-2010). I don’t know the exact number of filed complaints by individuals, but, if this is true, there are several factors that may influence the transaction record of police ID-checking–1)numerous complaints filed by NJ in the early years; 2) increasing visibility of NJ(tourists and visitors) in public place; and 3) lower level of alert for public health and security.

    Interestingly, I see NJ passing by the police officers nearby Koban, train station, and elsewhere in the street, but none of those have been stopped for ID so far—whether in Shibuya, Roppongi, or Shinagawa. Maybe ordinary presence of witnesses in public place—especially in daytime may discourage them from such conduct to make it visible to anyone. I still don’t know what’s behind this downplay of ID checking, but I doubt that NPA has decided to break with the past by changing their stance, since they are still holding certain campaigns to catch ‘fish’ with their dragnet at the national/regional airports in specific time period(typically in June, December/January). As far as the concern remains at stake, there is no reason for the police to abandon their random ID checking on NJ and any individuals who look suspicious based on skin color or phenotype.

  • Actually, there are some even simpler ways to refuse to go along with illegal police questioning.

    Even BEFORE launching into that righteous refusal paragraph written in comment #18, one can do this:

    Simply keep a thousand-mile stare, thus don’t even acknowledge the existence of the goons wearing special authority hats.

    Or, give the goons a little taste of Japanese culture, by simply silently throwing up a big “X” batsu sign with the hands, as if you’re dealing with an idiot who doesn’t understand words.

    Or, in addition to the big “X” batsu hand language, there is also the “hand waved back and forth in front of one’s own nose, if to say, ‘No no, no thank you, I refuse to buy what you’re selling, it stinks.”

    And, if one really wants to keep it simple, one can simply say “Okotowari Shimasu” or to be more specific, “Ihou na Shokumu Shitsumon o Okotowari Shimasu.”

    Those are all perfectly fine ways to minimize the number of seconds wasted and the number of calories spent, when refusing to submit to illegal (without probable cause of involvement in a specific crime) attempts by goons to convince you into stopping and answering questions, when the fact is you do NOT have to answer any questions and you do NOT even have to stop in the first place.

    Treat all “officials” on the street pretending you “must stop and give your valuable time”, like this: ignore them completely, or wave them off with simple hand motions, or simply say “Okotowari Shimasu” or “Ihou na Shokumu Shitsumon o Okotowari Shimasu.”

    You’ll probably find that in most cases they simply give up and let you keep walking without attempting to physically block your path (because they KNOW it is voluntary and because they KNOW that stopping folks in the first place without probable cause of crime involvement is illegal) so you don’t even NEED to pull out the whole paragraph from comment #18, but anyway, remember these various refusal methods which exist. 🙂


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